If you don't know who Seth Godin is, well, let's fix that. Godin is a best-selling author, public speaker, and one of the most respected marketing gurus in the world. His perspective is unique and inspiring. My good friend and colleague Seth Werkheiser introduced me to Godin's words a few years ago. He helped me select the quotes for this post, since they're so valuable to musicians and artists.
What I personally take away from Seth Godin is this: Stop talking and start doing. You're about to get a crash course in Godinisms, which are applicable in so many areas of life and work as a musician.
1. “Here's the truth you have to wrestle with: the reason that art (writing, engaging, leading, all of it) is valuable is precisely why I can't tell you how to do it. If there were a map, there'd be no art, because art is the act of navigating without a map. Don't you hate that? I love that there's no map.” – Linchpin
Art should not be pre-fabricated. Do it and see what works. It's also an important point because you need to understand that not every formula for success fits every artist. Sure, you may want to be the next Metallica, but you cannot replicate their success or their trajectory because time and life has changed dramatically.
Having a map is like having a security blanket. It may make you feel safe, but what if it's outdated or has a mistake? You could end up horribly off course. So embrace the reality that there is no exact map and no flawless science. Let map-less art be your guide.
2. “Soon is not as good as now.” – Poke the Box
This notion is applicable across all aspects of life, but especially when it comes to your career in an artistic field. Why wait? Why delay? Why procrastinate? Why push it off until later when you can do it now? Keep pushing forward, or you will be passed by someone equally as talented and as passionate about their art... but who is pushing harder and faster.
3. “Reject the tyranny of picked. Pick yourself.” – Poke the Box
Yes, you want the media to like you and to choose to cover your music or your album. You want that record label to sign you and work your music, exposing it to the masses. You want that manager or publicist to take you on as their client. But don't always rely on others to pick you. Do a lot of the legwork yourself to turn those heads.
Look at it this way: they will pick you because you've done the work to earn it. That is an innate form of control.
4. “Art is never defect-free. Things that are remarkable never meet spec, because that would make them standardized, not worth talking about.” – Linchpin
Embrace being different, unique, and you. Don't try to emulate someone else's music like a carbon copy. Use someone else's success story as a template, sure. But find the ways to make it yours. Don't look to a "standard" process or procedure. Design your own and make it DNA-distinct. Account for changes in the music business, like digital music replacing physical copies and generational shifts. Messes and mistakes are what make music (and all art) interesting.
5. “A brilliant author or businesswoman or senator or software engineer is brilliant only in tiny bursts. The rest of the time, they’re doing work that most any trained person could do.” – Linchpin
This is how you get your art to stand out from everyone else's art. Do not make music or approach your imaging like something anyone could or should do. Make every piece of your puzzle as brilliant as possible and as often as you can. It's exhausting and it's fucking hard, but that's what makes it legit art. Are you tired and ready to give up just from the thought of it? Fine. Pursue another career, then.
6. “Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment.” – The Dip
It sucks to keep playing gigs for no pay, with two people in the crowd. Oh, yes, it definitely blows to be rejected by the media or to be passed over for opening slots on tours. But that's just the now. Keep going, keep pushing, and keep trying to attain that larger goal.
It may suck to be the small fish in a big, eats-its-young pond. But if you remind yourself that this status is only temporary, and do the required work to improve the situation, you can survive it.
7. “When your art fails, make better art.” – The Icarus Deception
Let's be honest – this part is not easy. Art is subjective. Of course you think your art is top notch and the best there is. It's a piece of you and is your outward manifestation of your inner soul. But if it's not connecting, work harder at making it better. It may crush your spirit to think that, but nothing worth having or doing is easy.
Amy Sciarretto has 20 years of print and online bylines, from Kerrang to Spin.com to Revolver to Bustle, covering music, beauty, and fashion. After 12 years doing radio and publicity at Roadrunner Records, she now fronts Atom Splitter PR, her own boutique PR firm, which has over 30 clients. She also is active in animal charity and rescue.